Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Peaks and Valleys…

..and peaks again!

I had absolutely no idea how long six months to a year would feel. Or how hard a long distance engagement would be. The Tour Guide and I have had our ups and downs just like any other couple.  And I’m sure we’ve had some different ups and downs from couples who are together.

The whole visa process is long and arduous and took longer than I anticipated.  When we started the paperwork I thought he’d be here in six months or so. How wrong I was!  First I had to petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service for permission for The Tour Guide(USCIS) to apply for a K-1 Visa, also known as a Fiance Visa.  That’s the part that could have taken up to six months.  Little did I know when I thought we might have a Christmas or New Year’s wedding that was just the beginning of the process.   We got notification that our petition was approved in December.

Then My Tour Guide could apply for the actual visa but only after obtaining all the information that ever existed about him.  For obvious reasons the Department of Homeland Defence checks backgrounds pretty thoroughly. Logically I know that visa fraud happens – people fake their identities and such- but I have no idea how.  I mean, I’ve heard of it, but it would be so incredibly difficult to pull off.  So after obtaining certified copies of his birth certificate, his divorce decree, his police clearance certificate, his medical records including vaccinations and a USCIS approved physical he was eligible for an interview.

In March I did a whirlwind trip to England to attend the interview with my British beau, taking a nineteen hour flight on a Saturday and returning via the same route on the following Wednesday.  We had a two plus hour drive to London for the interview.  We were both sooo nervous because the U.S. government is pretty particular about who they let into the country to stay.  It was possible they could say no.  We built it up in our minds to somewhat of an interrogation.  Hell, I half pictured him in a chair, in a dark room, with a light in his face!

Thankfully it was much more friendly than that.  We arrived at the U.S. Embassy in London at eight a.m. for his nine a.m. appointment.  We didn’t wait very long before a British gentleman called him to a window to request all his documents.  Then we thought we’d wait for hours, but we didn’t.  We were probably there a total of two, maybe two and half, hours before he was called to the window.  After a very friendly exchange the interview lasted a grand sum total of ten whole minutes and we walked out of there approved!

In between all that time we’ve been getting to know each other better, having peaks and valleys and figuring out how to navigate a healthy relationship.  There was a time or two I didn’t know if we’d make it.  Everybody has baggage, right? But I think we’ve figured out how to make our baggage a full set of luggage on this crazy trip together.

The Tour Guide is flying here the first week of July.  So finally, after this long journey, we’ll be in the same hemisphere, in the same time-zone, and together for good! This messed up woman can’t wait to start her new life with her sweet, loving, sensitive, handsome, messed up man!

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Two Weeks is Not Enough

On the heels of my 5K debut The Tour Guide flew in to visit for a couple of weeks.  He got here on September 24 and we had a fantastic time.  Because I’d just joined the ranks of the employed I couldn’t take much time off, but we did manage to sneak out of town for a few days.

I absolutely love Savannah so I took The Tour Guide on a tour of it.

 

We spent the night there and had a delicious dinner on River Street.

The next morning went down I95 to check out Cumberland Island.  We took the ferry from St. Mary’s over to the Island.  While there are some residents on the Island, they’ve banded together to preserve it in it’s natural state.  No hotels, no tiki bars, no airbrush t-shirt shops. There are no stores, no restaurants nor anything commercial.  We took a picnic lunch over along with a small ice chest packed with drinks because there’s nowhere to buy anything once you’re there.  Completely unspoiled.  The only thing there is to spend money on once you’re on the island is bicycle rental at the beach camp.  We met quite a few people who were camping for the weekend.  It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

A bit grey, but beautiful scenery at Cumberland Island
The ruins of Dungeness – Winter home of Andrew Carnegie

Cumberland Island is home to the very first African American Baptist Church and the original burial place of General Henry Lee, III.  Wild turkeys, turtles, and horses roam free.  The only vehicles in the State Park are the ones that the Rangers drive.

My brother-in-law built this cooker himself.

We also spent a lot of time with my family.  For my little sister’s birthday we had a cookout,

We make a pretty good team!

played games,

shot bows and arrows,


and fished.

Two weeks goes by way too fast. ;~)


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A Little Redecorating

I get a little restless every now and again and have to redecorate my space.  The background picture is of the inner workings of the clock in the tower at Bath Abbey.  The silhouette is the delightful young tour guide(not to be confused with The Tour Guide) who was explaining how it worked .  I was conveniently leaning against this really long, really steady bar for a rest.  Two hundred some-odd steps is a lot.  And they’re really steep spiral steps to boot.  Anyway, the bar was bending just a bit when he looks up to explain the importance of that same bar to the timing of the clock.  I’m sure they had to reset it when I left. 🙂

Anyway, all of this was really just a lead in to say that it took a bit of time to get all of our paperwork together, but The Tour Guide and I have officially filed for our K1 Visa.  I got a notice of receipt from the USCIS on Saturday.  We had been told the process would probably take anywhere from 9 months to a year.  Things have apparently improved because processing times are now 5 to 5.5 months.  My Tour Guide will be here in September for a visit so that should be right about the halfway point.

Looks like a Christmas or New Year’s wedding. ::slaps hands together and rubs palms excitedly:: I have planning to do. 🙂


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There’s No Pleasing Everybody…And I’m Okay With That

When I got back home I knew I’d have to tell people I was engaged.  What was I going to do?  Wait until we got married and say, “Surprise!  I have a husband!”?  Somehow I don’t think that would work out too well.  Though I must say it would be easier to tell people I’m engaged if I had an actual man to go with the ring.  Most of the people I’ve told have never met him so I get some strange looks.  Oh well, who cares?  So this isn’t normal.  What’s normal anyway?

First I told Karen and Thomas.  Karen has pretty much thought this whole thing was cool from the beginning.  She’s payed attention to how The Tour Guide treats me and she knows how much he’s stood by me.  Karen just wants me to be happy and if the The Tour Guide makes me happy then she’s all for it.  Thomas really likes The Tour Guide.  We all had a great time while he was here.  I’m not sure if it’s the nature of his job in law enforcement or if it’s his personality, but he’s suspicious.  I’m not sure what he’s suspicious of except that he told Karen he thought maybe The Tour Guide was just interested in immigrating to America.  This, however, is coming from the man who is suspicious that his shadow seems to be following him a bit too closely.  Nothing to be concerned about, really.  He doesn’t have a reason to be suspicious, he doesn’t need one to be.  I’ve considered offering him some of my medication for the paranoia, but I’m not sure that Celexa works for that.

I didn’t want Sam to hear it from someone else so I told her next.  I called her and asked if I could come and speak to her.  So once again I found myself on her sofa, this time telling her that The Tour Guide and I were engaged.  “I know I reacted harshly when you talked to me about this before.  I hope you took that as me caring about you and not wanting you to get hurt.  Are you going there or is he coming here?”  “We’ve talked about it, and logistically it’s better for him to come here”, I said.  “In that case do whatever you want.  I guess I need to try to get to know him.  I hope he’s worth it.  I hope he’s good enough for you.  I’ve racked my brain and for the life of me I can’t think of anyone that is.  You’re the best and you deserve the best.  I want you to be happy.” Wow, I had no idea she felt that way.  I really thought she was angry, and I still think she was to a large degree.  But I  was honored that she said those things.  It really meant a lot to me. “Trust me, after everything I’ve put him through he’s passed the test with flying colors.  He’s a good man and I don’t deserve him.” 

Then I told Tessa and Danny.  “What? You went to England, with rings, knowing you were going to get engaged and you didn’t tell me? How could I not know this? When’s the wedding?  What kind of wedding do you want?  Are you planning to have children? ”  On and on it went.  She and Danny are genuinely happy for me.  When The Tour Guide came for his first visit they both told me after he left that he’d be back.  “We saw how he looked at you.  He adores you.  That’s not the last time we’ll see him.”

There was just one more to go.  Grace.  When I told her she asked, “Did he ever accept Jesus?”  My reply, “We won’t be unequally yoked.  He’s as much of a Christian as I am.”  You see, the first time The Tour Guide was here, when we hosted the dinner party, Grace and Bill were invited.  I’d made arrangements with all of them ahead of time.  When Grace found out that The Tour Guide was staying at my house she was upset.  After all she is the one that said if I pursued a relationship with him that there would be opposition.  When I called her to confirm that she and Bill would be at our dinner party she said very flatly, “Bill and I have talked about it and we both hope this is what you want and that you’re happy, but no, we won’t be at your house for dinner.  We don’t feel like we should be involved in this.  We love you, but we have to avoid all appearances of evil.”  Evil?  Really?

Later, after the Tour Guide flew home I reached out to her again and asked her to lunch.  Asking her what she meant by that she replied that she thought maybe he was the reason my marriage ended.  Again?  Really?  “No, Grace.  That’s not what happened.  I would have thought you would know me well enough by now to know that if that was what was going on I wouldn’t drag my friends into it.  I wanted to include my friends because I value you and what you think, but obviously I didn’t realize just how little you thought of me.”  Needless to say our friendship hasn’t been the same since. And that’s okay with me. We’re still friends, and I love her, but I can hardly see how it will ever be the same.  Not because I can’t get past it, but I’m not sure she can.  People are afraid of what they don’t understand.  I do hope that maybe, with time, she’ll put that thought out of her head. 

What I know is that I can’t please everybody.  I’m done with my days of trying to do that.  I researched that unequally yoked passage.  I tried my darnedest to “convert” The Tour Guide.  At the end of the day he’s taught me some very valuable life lessons.  One: You can be good without being Christian.  Two:  You should accept and love people for who they are and the way they are.  If you don’t it’s not really love.  And three:  I was entirely more prejudiced and judgmental than I thought I was.  He’s broken down a lot of my preconceptions and prejudices and challenged my thinking in many areas. He sees people from the inside out.  That’s a beautiful trait to have.


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Lucky Enough

*Part 9 in The Tour Guide series. You can read Part 8 here.

The Tour Guide and I never stopped communicating.  We called each other every day just to check in, make sure the other was alright. I wanted to make sure The Tour Guide knew I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was still there.  He wanted me to know the same.  We still talked about everything.  We were best friends.

I proceeded with my therapy session.  First I saw the Psychiatrist, Dr. M.  He asked some questions and I explained everything to him.  He said that sometimes once you get going down the road into depression, you just can’t get back up without a little help.  The chemical imbalance is a vicious cycle.  He prescribed me Celexa and referred me to a therapist in his office.  After the first two weeks on medication and my first therapy session I was already feeling like my old self again.   My therapist, Dr. P, said I won’t be on the medication very long in her opinion and we scheduled another session.  After the second session she said she didn’t see the need for me to schedule another.  She’d be there if I needed her, but I haven’t needed her again. 

The Tour Guide gives me a wake-up call every morning. One morning my phone rang for my wake-up call.  He was quiet at first.  Then, “I’ve made a big mistake.”  “What do you mean, what mistake?”, I asked.  “I never should have told you I just want to be friends.  I don’t want that.  I miss you.”  I replied, “I’m right here, hon.  I’m not going anywhere.”   So we made a fresh start – as much of a fresh start as two people who know each other so well can make.  It wasn’t exactly starting over.  But we tried to forget what was behind.

We started making plans for The Tour Guide to visit me in April.  That was going to be the first opportunity he’d have for vacation time.  We both got impatient, though.  That seemed like an awfully long time to wait.  The last time we’d seen each other was in September.  Seven months.  Far too long.  So I took a week off from work and flew to England to see him again at the end of February.

Instead of planning something for us to do every day, we played it by ear.  We relaxed and did whatever we wanted when the notion struck us.  The only real plans we had were to travel to Farnborough so I could meet his friends, Jane and Michael.  I had a fabulous time.  We had wine, ate chip sandwiches, listened to music and danced.  Michael and Jane left the room for a few minutes and The Tour Guide and I were alone. Sitting next to each other on Jane’s sofa I leaned over, kissed him softly, and said, “Will you marry me?”.  He didn’t take me seriously, but said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll marry you, when you get down on one knee.”  We continued on in our evening, spent the night at Jane’s and Michael’s, and the next day made the drive back to his place in Midsomer Norton.

I suppose that had been on his mind for the entire rest of the time, but he didn’t let on.  Finally he said, “Right, we need to talk about something.”  “Alright, what do we need to talk about?”  “Well, at Jane’s and Michael’s you’d had a couple of glasses of wine, and you asked me to marry you.  I need to know.  Was that the alcohol talking or did you mean that?”  “Wait right here”, I said.  I went to my luggage, took out the wedding rings my mother wore when she married my dad, and came back to the living room.  I showed him the rings, and said, “I was very serious.  I knew I was going to ask you before I left home.  That’s why I brought these with me.  I knew you were afraid to bring it up because you didn’t want to pressure me, and I knew you’d have a hard time asking me again.  So I’m asking you.  Will you marry me?”  “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

The Tour Guide and Me

We had the most fabulous time together.  His daughters came over and we spent a couple of days with them.  We went to the park together, grocery shopped together, I cooked them some Southern Chicken and Rice.  We took the girls home and the next day I flew home.

This time I had butterflies in my stomach and a ring on my finger. Looking forward to my future, no longer looking back at the past.  I’m going to marry that tall, handsome Brit who irons my clothes and makes me coffee – the one who wakes me up every morning with, “Ello, gorgeous girl”, and calls me “baby girl”.  I have no idea why The Tour Guide is crazy about me, but I know he is.  And I’m crazy about him.

What prompted the change of heart?  What helped me get past my paralyzing fear?  I already knew what it meant to love another.  The Tour Guide has shown me what it means to be loved.  I’ll leave you with this quote that I heard in an interview during my search.  When asked what the most important pieces of advice he wanted to pass on to his children were, Steven Hawking said, “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is rare and don’t throw it away.”  I’ve been lucky enough to find it, I’m not throwing it away.


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Just Give Me Some Peace

*Part 8 in The Tour Guide Series.  You can read Part 7 here.
As you can imagine all sorts of things were running through The Tour Guide’s head at this point.  He was thoroughly confused.  Because he’d never been exposed to the fundamentalism of Southern Baptist Christianity he had no idea what I was going through.  No matter how much I tried to explain it, it made no sense to him whatsoever.  In fact the more I tried to explain it, the worse view he got of Christianity.  These concepts were so foreign to him they were almost unbelievable. He was just sure I’d found somebody else and was trying to let him down easy.  That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  If I was going to be with anybody it was going to be The Tour Guide.   It didn’t take him long to realize that.
I was depressed and I was drowning in it.  So The Tour Guide thew me a life preserver.  He made the conscious decision to stick by me, to be a rock to anchor to.  Even if he didn’t understand all I was going through he could see I needed a friend.  So he dug in, gave me a shoulder to lean on and waited.  He backed off of the romantic relationship because he could see I was in trouble. 
My friend, Tessa, knew I was in trouble, too.  That’s when she drug me to North Georgia for deliverance.   When that didn’t work I fell even farther down the hole. The Tour Guide and I were still speaking every day. On Thanksgiving weekend I admitted to The Tour Guide that I was struggling in my faith.  I was having a crisis of faith that nearly drove me to a breakdown.  Everything I’d ever believed was challenged. 
  
He wasn’t in a position to answer my doubts or calm my fears.  He never tried to sway me in one direction or another.  But he always listened to me as I tried to wrestle these things out.  He was exactly what I needed him to be.  By early December I felt I was ready to give the relationship another go.  “Can we start over?”, I asked.  “We’ll have to take it slower, marriage is off the table for now. Do you think you can do that?  Take your time and think about it.  You don’t have to answer me now.”  “Let me think about it.  I don’t know.”, he said. I understood that.  I’d already snatched the rug out from under him and left him in whirlwind wondering what the heck just happened.
I decided not to pressure him for an answer.  In fact I didn’t bring it up again.  I waited for him.  “I’ve thought about it and I really want to give our relationship another go.  I love you so much.  But I’m trying to think about what’s best for both of us.  I need to be sure you’re ready to do that.”, he said a day or two later.  Finally he said, “Yes, I think I can do that.”   
It proved to be more difficult than he thought.  He was tentative and guarded.  And after Christmas he told me he thought we should just be friends.  He couldn’t take the wondering when I might freak out and break his heart again.  I couldn’t fault him. Now it was my turn to be patient and wait.  
I made an appointment with a therapist because I knew I needed help.  After everything I’d been through I just didn’t think getting on my face one more time before a God I wasn’t really even sure was there anymore was going to suddenly be the cure-all that I had been so confident in before.  I needed more than anything some peace.


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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

*Part 7 in The Tour Guide Series. You can read Part 6 here.

We knew that wasn’t goodbye.  The only problem was figuring out how to have a long distance relationship and do it well.  Up until now we’d only done Yahoo!Messenger chat.  That was never going to do if we were going to continue this.  So I bought a webcam so we could talk to each other.  It’s free! Who knew?!?  And it’s pretty darned amazing.  Don’t get me wrong it’ll never be the same as being together, but at least we can see and hear each other.   

As soon as The Tour Guide got back to England we were planning when I would come to visit him.  I booked a flight for September which seemed like an eternity.  In between May and September we really did bond and get closer.  It may seem strange to some people, but a long distance relationship has it’s advantages.  If both people are transparent and completely honest it can be a relationship builder.  You can get to know the real person without the pressure of a physical relationship.  Talking and sharing is all you have.  We’ve pretty much shared every thought and emotion.  There have been good times and bad times, scary times and excited times.

The connection we both felt was so strong it wasn’t long before we were talking marriage and The Tour Guide asked me to marry him.  I was so in love and so happy that I said yes.  We began planning how we were going to make this happen.  We paid a retainer to an immigration attorney and began gathering the paperwork to file for a fiance visa.

That’s when it happened.  I had a major meltdown.  My cognitive dissonance started to kick in.  I’d been witnessing to The Tour Guide this whole time.  I’d been telling him how great Jesus is and debating with him the merits of creationism.  That’s when he began to ask me the questions, unknown to him, that altered my faith forever.  That’s when I began to really research divorce and remarriage.   There were so many interpretations and I couldn’t figure out which one was right.  So I broke off our engagement.  It was all moving too fast and I had too many unresolved issues. I devastated him. 

I began to frantically search for the answers to the questions that now haunted me.  Questions of creationism vs. evolution.  Questions of the historicity of Jesus.  Things I’d never even questioned before.  All because of one little question.  All because of one big statement.  “I’d like to believe in Jesus.  If someone could knock on my door right now and show me some kind of proof, any proof that Jesus was the Messiah, I’d believe.  But they can’t. I believe Jesus was a prophet, a teacher.  But the son of God?  Born of a Virgin?  How does that work?  There’s no evidence outside of the Bible.”  I truly believed there was.  I was on a mission to prove it to The Tour Guide.  But the more I searched the more questions I had.  That was not The Tour Guide’s intent.  He admired and respected my faith.  I think he honestly hoped I had some answers because my faith was so strong.  And it all came tumbling down.  I felt like a big fake.  Was I really living what I preached?  No.  Sadly, I didn’t feel that I was. 

We continued in our relationship and I went to visit him in September.  We had a fantastic time as evidenced by the pictures we took and the places we went. I met his parents, his sister and brother-in-law and his two beautiful daughters.  We had an instant rapport. His family is eclectic and beautiful.  He showed me a fabulous time and I fell even more in love with the man who was strong enough to handle all my questions – who didn’t run out on me when I was at my worst and my weakest.  I gave him ample enough reason to walk away and never look back.  This all scared me half to death.

I flew back to the States with a knot in my stomach, not wanting to leave and knowing I couldn’t stay. I didn’t know how to handle any of it.  What was I going to do?  I couldn’t keep this loving, kind, beautiful person in limbo while I searched for my answers.  I felt I had no choice but to end our relationship.  And so, as hard as it was, that is what I did, promising to remain loyal friends.